How does one begin to mount any defense or attack against poverty, unemployment, substance abuse and gangsterism in a community that has grown habituated to senseless violence, abuse, lack and drugs? Do we continue to organize mass prayer meetings and evangelistic campaigns in a quest to have everyone saved and redeemed? Do we send in truckloads of goods and aid in an attempt to soothe the pain? Do we organize more mass peace walks and mobilize the community to rally together for the cause? Do we have engagement meetings with the different rival gang leaders and broker peace yet again?
All valiant efforts, and all successful in years gone past. Yet the problem seems to get worse and the decay seems to be spreading at an alarming rate. Gang wars have taken the lives of countless youngsters, substance abuse is at an all-time high with drug dealers mushrooming up throughout the area. As the war for territory intensifies due to the increase in competition, the need for an adequate diagnosis and cure is imperative.
Having grown up in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth (Nelson Mandela Bay); I know from personal experience that there are countless good initiatives, individuals, and organizations working tirelessly to combat the decay in the NA. Yet, where I wish to offer the critique is in that all mostly spend endless efforts and resources in addressing symptoms; failing to diagnose the root cause.
A lot of comedians have mocked “coloured people” for being prone to violence. And though it is extremely funny, the question does evitable need to be asked; “Are coloured people violent by nature, or design?” Animal rights activists across the world have embarked on a movement to rid the Pitbull of the stigma that it’s a violent animal. And in many ways, I do think and feel that as coloured people, we too need to be rid of the stereotypical believe that we are prone to violence, gangsterism, and crime.
By design, coloured communities across the country are categorized by large families crammed into small houses with limited open spaces for sports and recreation. Historically, coloured fathers were groomed to be masons, carpenters, handyman if you wish. Hardworking labourers that work long hard hours and deserving of a reward at the end of the day. Tired father gets home from his hard day’s work and wants to rest, yet due to limited space at home, kids are either inside making a noise or are forced to keep quiet while dad is resting. To this there are two possible outcomes; a) kids obey but live to resent the times when dad is home; b) kids continue to make a noise which sparks an often times violent backlash from dad, result – kids resent dad.
Compound this over a number of years and you eventually end up with a generation of children who do not have a relationship with their fathers. Fathers who would much rather head to a shebeen/tavern/bar to relax after their long day’s work. Alcohol eventually becomes the escape, which eventually leads to other issues at home. This cycle repeats itself a number of years over and eventually, you end up with a community of fatherless children, lack of guidance and role models, needy families and boys wanting to be men by providing for their siblings.
Furthermore, you face a household in which the daughter, though very intelligent and full of promise with a bright future ahead of her; reaching her final year in school often times not having anyone to advise or mentor her on the next step or phase. The result is a default attempt to find employment after matric. The search often times yields very little success and promising daughter eventually meet a boy who makes her feel loved. No work, endless weeks alone at home while mom and dad are at work, feelings and emotional immaturity combined eventually leads to teenage pregnancy. Said daughter now has to find any employment and ends up working long hours for a minimum wage and no time to raise her child. Compound this over a number of years and eventually, you end up with…
I do not have the answers, and I do not claim to have the solution. However, as a product of the Northern Areas, I have witnessed the chaos, experienced the aid and have offered aid. Yet, I am left questioning the cycle and its efficacy. Let us address spend more time diagnosing the root cause and combating that; instead of countless resource and attempts at soothing the symptoms.